Calling the Kettle Black

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This
week’s Congressional hearings with top executives from America’s
collapsing auto industry were noted for the manner in which the
politicians took the auto execs to task for their personal excesses.

Even though
I live in the Detroit area and am already experiencing the nuclear
effect of the collapsing economy, I am completely opposed to the
proposed bailout for reason consistent with my Libertarian views.
There are few examples of poorer management than those of the former
"big three." It is not government’s place to extend a
U.S. taxpayer’s credit card to these companies as a consequence
of their own irresponsible business practices.

However,
Congress seeking to shame auto execs over financial excess or poor
management practice is the very definition of irony. This is the
same public body that daily sets about to regulate every aspect
of our private affairs always with disastrous consequences. Among
its ranks sit some of the sleaziest operators you could ever find.
Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is the latest poster child, convicted
on seven felony counts for corruption.

Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman auditioning for national media
attention, smugly asked
the auto executives
if any had flown commercial to Washington,
DC. Maybe the auto executives decided not to fly commercial because
they would not have arrived in time in light of the Draconian measures
employed by the Congressionally created Department of Homeland Security
and the unreliability of commercial airlines which continue to suffer
the effects of federal regulation.

Sherman’s
next question was whether any of these executives planned to sell
"their" corporate jets while in DC and
fly home commercial
. Sherman’s question displays gratuitous
sarcasm and ignorance over the fact that the jets are owned by the
shareholders not the executives. How many of Sherman’s fellow Congressmen
are shareholders in these same automotive companies? Perhaps Sherman
should address his question to the next shareholders’ meeting instead.

The
Congressional pork-and-graft cycle is so well established that it
is as much a part of American history as the Revolution itself.
How many junkets have Mr. Sherman and his cohorts taken at the expense
of the taxpayer? Auto executives’ salaries and benefits, including
travel on corporate jets, are financed with private capital voluntarily
invested and subject to approval by shareholders and boards of directors.
Congress lives parasitically on public funds extracted by force
from private citizens and subject only to their own whim. The lavish
benefits and retirement plans Congress has voted for its members
make even bloated UAW benefits pale by comparison. What private
enterprise provides a pension at full salary for life?

The
implication of Sherman’s questioning is that those in charge of
the auto companies have played fast and loose with company money
while the companies were losing money and the executives continue
to make no sacrifices. Yet, Congress takes no personal responsibility
for years of irresponsible fiscal and monetary policies by which
the federal government has plunged the nation into the worst economic
disaster in modern times. While publicly grandstanding about their
concern for Main Street, Congress voted to turn $700 billion of
Main Street’s dollars over to Wall Street in defiance of overwhelming
opposition from their constituents. Then they proceeded to lace
the bill with more pork than Jimmy Dean and Bob Evans combined.
By the way Mr. Sherman, what pay cuts did you or your fellow politicians
take to show solidarity with Main Street? Yeah, I thought so.

Then
there is my favorite quote by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. “Until
we can see a plan where the auto industry is held accountable and
a plan for viability on how they go into the future . . . until
they show us the plan, we cannot show them the money,”
Maybe
it is time we held Congress to this standard. Ms. Pelosi, until
the American taxpayer can see a plan where Congress is held accountable
and a plan for viability on how Congress will operate in the future…until
Congress shows the American taxpayer the plan, we cannot show you
the money.

November
22, 2008

John
M. Peters [send him mail]
is a practicing attorney in Michigan.

John
M. Peters Archives

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